Gilas tackles Greece in FIBA U19 opener
John Bryan Ulanday (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After a long and tedious preparation, the tallest Philippine youth team in history will finally be measured and tested today when it tackles home team Greece in the opener of the FIBA U19 World Cup at the Heraklion Arena in Greece.

Led by the towering frontcourt duo of 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-11 AJ Edu, the Nationals troop into 1:30 a.m. (Manila time) duel with a gigantic task of pulling off an upset on world No. 15 Greece, which will be cheered on by an expected frenetic Heraklion homecrowd.

Add the presence of other big men in 6-foot-9 Geo Chiu and 6-foot-8 Carl Tamayo, the 30th-ranked Gilas youth will definitely have the ceiling it never had before to stand a fighting chance against the U19 powerhouses.

Still though, head coach Sandy Arespacochaga admitted needing more than that especially against a lanky and lethal Greek wing led by 6-foot-8 Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos.

“We are going up against a strong Greece team. Though we have a tall frontcourt, it will just help us neutralize our height disadvantage in the wing,” Arespacochaga told The STAR, referring to the 18-year old Rogkavopoulos, who normed 19.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in the U18 European qualifiers last year

“The Greek team we will be facing is tall at all positions led by a 6-foot-8 forward who is their leading scorer,” Arespacochaga said.

This explains why Arespacochaga is calling on his other personnel to step up as they will need more than the twin towers of Sotto and Edu to compete not only against Greece but also against Russia and Argentina in Pool C of the prestigious quadrennial basketball tilt for the 19-and-under age group.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle for us every game. We’ ve been telling our boys. Our opponents are stronger. It would require more from us,” Arespacochaga added. “It will not be Kai and AJ against our foes but the whole Gilas youth  against our opponents. ”

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